Survivor Hindsight Bias #11: Same As It Ever Was

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I’ve been pretty spoiled this season (no, not that kind, have you SEEN my predictions?) because there has been virtually zero boring episodes. I think the merge was all we really had to grouse about, and even then it still had Neal’s medevac to focus on, and a merge is always an exciting time. I bring this up essentially because this was our first boring episode outside of that in Kaoh Rong. Maybe a cooldown was needed, but there was a lot of talk about moves that wouldn’t happen, no particularly shiny character moments, and the promise of a domesticated chicken being cruelly eaten was denied to us. I don’t have much of anything to work with.

Still, if you’ve actually waited this long in my third consecutive Autopsy skip, it’s my formal duty to provide you at least some goddamn thing worth reading about, so without further ado, it’s time to dive right in and make something out of this mess.

MICHELE WINNER EDIT CONFIRMED

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The big story of last episode was Michele. The edgic discussion of “Michele wins and anyone who doesn’t obey this train of thought is useless” and “If Michele wins I’ll burn down CBS’ mansion” has been a… less than fun… dominating conversation. It’s the personification of getting pleasure out of being smarter than everyone else or having a severe hatred for females who play quiet games. Personally, I see all three women as pretty powerful contenders in three different ways and the antagonistic, impenetrable wall of Michele defenders has made this season impossible to edgic or even praise contestants in a way I don’t know if any other season has other experienced.

Still, many would tell you Michele has done nothing at all and is completely invisible, both of which are blatant lies and a campaign of misinformation. At this point Michele has been more visible than Cydney, and compared to other seasons is in the middle for confessional counts with 29- more than actual low-vis winners like Natalie White and Sophie Clarke ever got.

I think it might feel like less because Michele, unfortunately, is not a particularly great narrator. She tends to dryly give a lot of Spradlin-esque keeping-my-options-open confessionals that go in one ear and out the other. That shows a decent amount of intelligence from her, but ultimately not a great amount of character, which is why I think some actually do think she’s invisible despite being a pretty damn visible character.

As for Michele’s strategy in this game, ultimately she’s had a good amount of lucky breaks in this season. She and Nick Messiahrano didn’t go to TC until the Final 10, but Michele was largely good at keeping things in check on Gondol, forming an immediate alliance with Julia and Anna. After the swap, where she messed up a challenge, she did a good enough job at keeping her mouth shut around Nick but keeping him on her radar, and reaching out to tribal leaders like Debbie to try and improve her place in the game. Come merge, this has almost perpetually put her in the power group, taking out Nick and being included in the Debbie plan.

When things didn’t go her way and Scot went over Tai, you could immediately see how Michele is a cut above the rest. Julia immediately gets angry, pouts, and plans to kill Tai’s pet. Michele chills, waits for an opportunity, then cordially consults Aubry and Cydney on what her best move is. Michele ultimately has what everyone else can’t match her in- connections. She regained Aubry and Cydney’s trust (and therefore Joe), she had a link to Julia and therefore to Kyle, and she even has beauty tribe links to Tai. Ultimately, she’s also not on anyone’s radar either, and since it’s easy to believe this season has a Final 2, she’s set herself up well to slink on in with an unpopular player. Such is the beauty of the Final 2, it makes everyone have to play harder to win and separates the good players from the great.

I think that seeing as we’re six years into Probst’s Big Moves Propaganda Movement, people assume the fact that Michele’s only blindside (besides the Nick one she was involved in which for some reason doesn’t count with people) was her immunity challenge win means that she’s not a good player, which quite simply isn’t the case. People who make big moves or who strategically puff themselves up generally bite the dust, and if it is a Final 2 Aubry has set herself up for a third place finish, following the footsteps of Scot, Debbie, Nick, Peter, Anna, and Liz. Tony was onto something when he kept fellow threats like Spencer and Tasha around to keep the bogeyman target off of himself, but this season exterminates the life of the strategic with ease.

Sadly, I don’t think many will see that and if Michele and Kyle are the F2, Michele likely winning will basically recreate the Russell was robbed and Natalie should sacrifice the million to his holiness debacle. Better to be a douchebag male who says strategy (while playing horribly) than a female who plays well without big moves, I guess.

Taiding Things Over

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(My taitle game is weak this time.)

Last week, Tai swayed America back to his side by denying supervillain Scot the super-idol and leaving Scot’s little pissant henchman scrambling for life. Suddenly, Kyle realizes the strategy isn’t to destroy things and starve out his enemies, because suddenly Kyle lost an inordinate amount of power and actually has to play Survivor without cheat codes. Tai finds himself a target after sending Scot packing because leave it to Kyle to make his next plan immediate petty revenge. Amazingly, Tai left the episode with both his idol and advantage come the F6 despite both being clear as day, and Kyle lost his only ally Julia.

At this point, Tai’s advantages are only good for the next two rounds, so I figure we’ll see a good bit of setup for crazy things involving them. Tai insists that he won’t leave with them in his pocket, though good luck trying to fit the extra vote box in there. I’m starting to believe him- “dotting his t and crossing his i” has begun to pay off for him. Still, Tai is clearly pretty easy to sway given a good case. I’m starting to wonder, after he asked Aubry if he should play his idol, if the way he plays it becomes his plan, or if it’s the machinations of someone more dominant than he is.

If Kyle wins immunity at Final 6, Tai’s best off using his idol. His extra vote, however, is an interesting story. At Final 6, it breaks a 3-3 tie by default. At Final 5, it can manufacture a 3-2-1 vote with only two people, meaning if Tai doesn’t like the two boot options and has a friend he can choose someone else to go. However, Tai’s more of a simplistic Survivor player. He’d kick ass on Pagong or Rotu, and in many ways has done well for himself here. It’s just that his gameplay is more along the lines of “keep your head down, work hard, and be useful” and not so much complex, headache-inducing plans.

Part of me is curious, however, if his idol or advantage never leaving his pocket is a good thing. If Tai is malleable enough, someone could use his idol for nefarious purposes that hurt Tai just by asking nicely. That’s possibly the most interesting element of it all- Tai is a wild card, and he holds two impressive advantages in this game, and it’s anyone’s guess how he- or someone else- uses them.

Big Player in Little Kaoh Rong

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When I looked up images of Julia from Episode 11, hoping to find one where she looks longingly at Mark the Dinner, the first article to come up was “Big Player Eliminated from Kaoh Rong”. I like that. That’s nifty. I think Julia making #bigmoves was probably where her game started going downhill because for the most part she lacked the finesse to really pull it off and ultimately pissed a lot of people off in the process. Still, I really appreciate that a nineteen year old girl can come onto Survivor, try some ballsy off-the-wall strategy, and get a little respect for it.

Julia is someone I differ from a lot of the fanbase with, in that I think she didn’t play a great game. Big moves aren’t always good moves and she burnt bridges easily by transparently going to the guys and happily voting out the one woman (Debbie) willing to defend her through thick or thin. The woman she spared, Cydney, ended up having no use for her “traitor ass” and sent her packing over Kyle this week.

I think that Julia’s best plays were the subtler stuff- finding who to campaign to so she could save herself in the F13, making her way into the power trio on Gondol and being able to give input about a fourth in Tai for awhile, and lying about her age because, let’s be real, twenty-something women get enough judgment on Survivor, no way in hell most people would let a nineteen year old woman slip by. These are subtle details that ultimately Michele does way better because Michele has the patience not to taint them with overplaying, and that’s what happened to Julia. She had good ideas, but she worked with a sledgehammer and not a surgical knife.

All that having been said, I appreciate Julia for her go-getter attitude and her penchant for being a bit of a villain without much fear of the consequences. Obviously she was nowhere near as bad as Scot and Kyle, but she played dirty and she played hard. I don’t attend the Church Of Big Moves with Minister Probst every Wednesday Night but for someone like Julia who entered the game under a microscope from people waiting to cut her down, I’m impressed that she worked so hard to buck the trends set for her by nineteen year old followers like Brandon Hantz and Natalie Tenerelli, and she created a unique little character for herself that I found entertaining. Even though we don’t agree on everything, I respect my birthday crossing contestant for keeping things fresh.

Mislabeling

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How many of you thought when I titled the last segment “Big Player” and posted a photo of Julia and Kyle thought the last segment would be about Kyle? If so… who exactly did you think you were reading?

Last week I decided to avoid talking about Kyle altogether and it’s clear why. Apparently his reputation is getting better because this week he wasn’t too atrocious, and I guess if you’re Kyle not being a completely irreparable shitstain on the film strip is something worth praising, like a dog who learns not to piss on the rug. Let me just make my stance perfectly clear- Kyle is just useless. Without magic idols, he’s a limpdick player. Without Scot, he is absolutely no fun- seriously, his confessionals and TC antics are Phillip level.

I don’t get the turnaround on him. Go figure he says strategy enough and he can dump water on the fire and still get a bunch of apologists, meanwhile someone feeds someone too much rice and despite doing strategy you still have people ragging on her. I still see redditors defend Brenda for humiliating Dawn, for God’s sake, but despite actually being an asshole Kyle gets a militia behind him. Why, though?

Not only has he shown himself to be a jackass on and off show, his strategy is shit. Vote out a strong competitor over Alecia because you were worried he’d be a jury threat in round freaking one? Well, hope you like TC. A lot more. Then you have the balls to act offended when she is still on the tribe like you have no clue how this cancer remained. Even Joel at least waited til the swap to complain, not whilst voting out other people! Then he swaps and gets under fire for being lazy. Charming. Then, come merge, he has not once voted right and alienates everyone, eventually his own allies, for being a cocky prick and for destroying camp gleefully. But I guess he said idols a few times so he’s okay, despite having his buddy leave with his for literally zero reason.

I have made it no secret I have hated Kyle since the first episode, hell even his bio gave me jibblies. I still do my best to find/replace any moments I might have called him Jason with his actual name, Kyle, because he’s done shit-all to earn a last name treatment. Cochran in SoPa entered the game with more right to a last name. Kyle is the epitome of “playing flashy is not equivalent to playing good”. People rag on Michele but Michele could lose to Cydney and Aubry and still show herself to be a better player than Jason. And probably much more pleasant company. I long for the day when we stop giving douchebags a pass just because they talk strategy and say a funny thing sometimes.

(Speaking of replacing names it’s kind of crazy how you could replace Kyle with Rodney and get just as relevant a rant)

Playing Chicken

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I think the Mark the Chicken experience is best summarized by Jeremiah Panhorst in a podcast accidentally saying that Mark is “Playing Survivor”. For awhile now, especially in the post-Sabotage era of Kaoh Rong, Mark has become as relevant, if not more, than several contestants on the season. CBS even released an updated F7 intro that included two actual shots of Mark the Chicken. I wish I could find them anywhere, but this shot will have to do.

Tai’s little shoulder buddy has become a fascinating example of perhaps the first long-lasting NPC since Purple Kelly. We’ve had animals before, and we’ve had non-Survivor visitors before, but they’re guest stars and cameos. Mark has lasted a long time without being eaten and essentially is treated as Tai’s cute pet. Other contestants mention him- Scot mentions Mark in the group of people enjoying the F9 reward, and Joe comments that Tai likes the chicken more than he likes the other brains. He’s even become a plot point, with people hinting that Mark might get caught in the wave of sabotage in revenge for Tai turning on Kyle. (You didn’t see the part where I typed Jason, went back and erased it and put in Kyle. I’m dead serious about this.)

It’s all a little cutesy and precocious, this Mark focus, I can grant that. I think it’s just that Mark is another novelty in a sea of novelties that even I couldn’t make up. Since Tai is already such a standout fan favorite, go figure that he’s the only person lovely enough to have a surviving pet that just casually roosts around him. It’s all a good bit of fun.

As for his winner chances- below the three women, just above Tai himself. #4, overall edgic OTT, still better at Survivor than Kyle.

Gillon and Bracco Enterprises

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One is a bodybuilder who’s smarter than she looks- a UPenn Graduate with an astute strategic brain you wouldn’t expect from a buff, fast-talking Atlanta girl, but really should have. One is a social media marketer who’s stronger than she looks- despite suffering panic attacks she lead her tribe to many a victory and can hang tough with the best of them. One entered the merge in a power position being usurped from underneath her. One entered the game under the gun and desperate for even an ounce of power. Somehow, their paths converged and now the two of them are running the game completely in-sync, speaking each other’s languages as if they were never as far separated from each other as culture would dictate.

I still love everything about the Aubry/Cydney power duo. They’re two of my favorites of the entire season, and both have a lot great going for them. It isn’t a Spencer/Tasha thing where one is falsely built up as better than the other. They both have pros and cons that make them work really well, and however their storyline ends, it’ll feel quite powerful. I appreciate that.

In many ways, this has been a good season for the portrayal of women, even if the fanbase often still has yet to match that. I mentioned not liking how Michele’s edit randomly became (insert stock feminist phrases and nothing else) around the Final 6, and Michele has gotten better in that regard. Still, the natural story of Cydney surpassing expectations in ways of intelligence and Aubry surpassing expectations in fortitude has been super engaging and even inspiring to me. I thought Cydney was rational and well-spoken in her legendary argument against Ja- Kyle in Nick’s boot, and I was impressed from Episode 1 with how Aubry gathered herself and gave a powerhouse performance in the first episode.

Can either of them win? I think all three women have strong edits that peak and burn out in different ways, and more than anyone Michele’s the one with room to grow as a character. Still, I think it should be appreciated how all three women are portrayed with strengths and weaknesses instead of trying to personally pick the prom queen out of them like Dr. Peter would. Survivor will take its course, but all three women have delivered in my eyes.

Del Campo Unleaded

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Oh, hey. Look, he still has his Chan Loh buff on him at the merge. That explains that confessional where he was wearing it in the Final 9 episode.

I gotta feel for Joe. Being the 72-year-old contestant sets the bar high for him, but this episode wasn’t super great for him. He did nearly win the reward challenge with Tai, which would have been the most hysterical reward pair-up since Brandon/Frank, but at the immunity challenge he was a different story, getting exhausted and casually opting out of finishing. While not to Missy-level extents, Joe not participating in challenges has gotten a backlash, to the point where Joe went from being the least visible one to the least visible one, and also a goat, which I don’t think is entirely true.

(Side note- RHAP getting seven Joe-related voicemails in a row in his least visible week was one of the funniest RHAP things in awhile)

As I noted last week, Joe does things his own way, isn’t the most strategic character, and obviously is getting very weak in challenges. Still, I don’t know if the jury would hold him sucking in challenges against him when the guy’s freaking seventy-one. This isn’t a Crystal Cox thing where we should expect more from her, it’s kind of understandable why Joe isn’t acing challenges. It’s less understandable why he’s even still alive in Kaoh Rong despite playing thirty days- I knew Joe was a badass off-show, but hot damn that’s impressive.

Joe also presents himself as a respectable gentleman, which wins him points over at least a couple of people. He stood by the women and helped them rebuild from the sabotage and was the one to get into the punks’ faces when they were being assholes towards them. His goals in the game are more towards his own personal goals and character, of which winning isn’t paramount, yet he still manages to get people to generally like him and he’s voted in the right post-merge infinity more times than Kyle.

I’m not saying he’s the best player there, but I’ve heard people, including the two guys from podcast Snakes Rats and Goats (whom I respect as much as I do any Survivor podcasters, if not more) claim that Joe’s the biggest goat, a hundred percent, and while the odds are against him I think others have played worse this season and Joe could win with the right audience. I mean, he’s not, because his edit has been super minimal and I’m not entirely sure he’s not gonna be the fourth Chanloh to be taken to a hospital immediately (who cursed that beach, seriously?) but I think much like a Dan Lembo type before him despite his unconventional play and his physical weakness he has a plausible shot of winning a jury vote in theory.

Either way, the fact that he made it thirty-plus days with zero votes against him in Survivor despite being in his seventies, in the most brutal season since Africa, despite playing stubbornly to his own terms and conditions, is kind of freaking amazing. I’ve always had a thing for the “purple” characters, and Joe is a special kind of love for me. ❤

Next time on… Survivor!

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(That’s the last goddamn time I get images from a press photo website, had to delete the same text blurb like five times already)

Things are looking hella intense for the final six after people start considering turning on each other. Michele’s name is brought up for the first time and Aubry finds herself emotionally struck by a difficult decision she’s faced with. Is it all misdirection again, or is it actually gonna have some payoff?

We’ll find out next time.

-Cameron

 

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